October 22, 2017

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Schools Plan Group Readings of Gettysburg Address on Skype and Google

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the  Gettysburg Address, students around the nation are connecting this month for simultaneous readings of President Abraham Lincoln’s iconic 272-word speech.

Students can gather on Skype or Google Hangouts to participate in the event, “Four Score and Seventy Years Ago,” taking place from November 18-22 and open to children from Kindergarten to sixth grade. Once a teacher has registered a class on the site, he or she will be connected with a list of all interested classrooms to coordinate a group read. Organizers Jennifer Wagner, K-6 computer lab instructor at the Calvary Murrieta (CA) Christian Schools, and Kristen Magyar, IT coach at the Highland Falls-Fort Montgomery (NY) School District, are also suggesting related lesson plans and creating an Edmodo teachers’ group for registered participants.

“We like to host projects that have a historical background,” says Wagner, who has created events related to anniversaries of  the Lewis and Clark expedition and the Wright Brothers’ flight on her site, Projects by Jen. Wagner initiated an earlier simultaneous Gettysburg Address read on  Lincoln’s 200th  birthday in 2009, that time connecting with a read-aloud initiative at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, IL. When she met Magyar at the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference this June, Magyar asked to join her in coordinating the current project.

Lincoln’s speech—just over two minutes long—took place four and a half months after Union forces defeated the Confederates at Gettysburg, PA. On November 19, 1863, the President reminded his audience of 15,000 at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, that the Civil War was being fought to protect the country’s founding premise of equality: “Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Honoring the thousands of soldiers who died at the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln vowed, “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

With the simultaneous reading, Wagner hopes to foster “some awareness of a very important document and give people the opportunity to look at it deeper.” Magyar wanted “to truly  engage students in such an important part of history and discuss the changes that have happened due to this famous speech.”

In addition, Wagner aims to impress upon students “how important the written and spoken word is. 272 words is not a lot.” Wagner adds, “It has rippled out so far for something so short.”

As for the participating classrooms, she says, “I hope they will continue to stay in touch with each other throughout the year.” On the site, she and Magyar recommend that teachers and students practice the speech “several times” before the simultaneous readings.

Sarah Bayliss About Sarah Bayliss

Sarah Bayliss (sbayliss@mediasourceinc.com, @shbayliss) is associate editor, news and features, at School Library Journal.

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